The Union: Siren’s Song

Despite a few wobbles, the state of The Union is remarkably healthy.

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Admit it: you had The Union pegged as a consolation prize. Like Robert Plant in Band Of Joy or Keith Richards in the Winos, Luke Morley’s cradle-snatching hook-up with Peter Shoulder initially felt like a vehicle to be tolerated, from the bar, but only from a sense of duty, and they’d better bloody play some Thunder songs.

How fickle we are. From the moment they detonated High Voltage in 2010 – when nobody even knew a word of the debut – rock’s odd couple have exercised squatters rights in our affections. This band is not Morley’s midlife crisis; it’s his Indian summer.

Siren’s Song is not sufficiently life-changing to stop journalists asking after Danny Bowes, but it’s strong enough to reiterate a no-brainer: The Union deserve your attention, however you feel about Morley’s CV. As the silverback, the guitarist could have milked his old tricks, but as before, there’s a sense of the 51-year-old kicking his own arse, writing for his wingman’s yearning voice and letting folkier, rootsier influences marinate among the crunchy blues-rock. Most of the time, this musical blank cheque leads the duo down some promising avenues.

Siren’s Song kicks off with a blinder, on a title track that rattles and wheezes for a full minute before the power kicks in, for the most exciting acoustic-to-electric gearshift since Bring It On Home. Just as good is Blame It On Tupelo, with God’s own verse riff. But just when you’re mentally writing your hyperbolic review, there’s a frustrating lull with Orion. It’s hard to believe that neither man piped up: “Er, doesn’t this one sound exactly like Sting’s face-clawingly irritating Shape Of My Heart…?

But it’s soon forgotten, trampled beneath the hooves of the mighty Obsession, the Dylan-esque sunny-side-up strum of Make Up Your Mind, and further superior headbangers in The Remedy and Burning Daylight. ‘Groove’ is the operative word here, but ‘heart’ is close behind, with wee-small-hours slow blues Cut The Line proving The Union’s balladry doesn’t have to be mawkish.

The ball isn’t dropped until you reach the closing If I Could Make You Mine, which evokes Shoulder cat-crawling across a Steinway in a cocktail lounge. “I’ve never been one to settle for second-best,” croons Shoulder at one point. Increasingly, The Union doesn’t feel like that.

Siren’s Song is quality stuff, and with a couple of duds cut, you’d have to tie yourself to the mast to resist it.

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.